Category: Simple Wisdom

Getting Mentally Prepared For Online Church

Getting Mentally Prepared For Online Church

Due to the most recent guidelines and restrictions given by the government most of us are now living, working, churching, exercising and schooling from the safety of our homes.  (Before continuing I’d like to take a moment to personally thank any person who is still on the front line of work due to the nature of their vocation whether it be medical, grocery store staff or anything else that requires you to still show up every day.  We really do appreciate you and all that you are doing to keep serve the wider society during this time.)  For most of us, being at home every day is a new experience and we are grappling with the challenges that that presents.  A good friend of mine (from Sunnyhill) informed me that when he was preparing to move his office to his home last week he was given a document by his place of work that gave him some tips on how to make the transition as effective and fruitful as possible.  What great foresight for a business/organisation, not just to send someone home with a laptop and a phone and expect the same results as before but rather to help their employees mentally prepare for working from home.  

Obviously, I can’t really talk in to all the areas of transition you and your household are going through but I would like to offer some 7 tips on how you might mentally prepare for church during this season.  

  • Just because you’re not leaving the house,  doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still shower and dress as though you are.

My son Judah is insistent on still wearing his school uniform whilst he attends home-schooling with Loo.  At first, I thought this was random and told him he shouldn’t bother, however, he said ‘I’m still doing school Dad!’  At which point, I thought ‘fair enough.’  He takes it further, after home-school is done he throws on his shorts, flip-flops, and takes of his shirt.  So far, Judah has received the most merits and has been the best student.  I’m not saying that is solely to do with his attire but definitely think it speaks to his mentality.  So my first tip is, if you are tuning in for Sunday Live, Online One Group or anything else that has lots of people watching or participating, dress as though they can all see you.  I think the process of getting showered and dressed helps you prepare mentally for attending or participating in an event.  Resist, pyjama Sunday or naked OneGroups, just in case you do put your camera on by accident LOL.

  • Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can switch off.

I don’t know if you watch TV like me where you struggle to concentrate on one source of viewing.  I like to have multiple things on the go simultaneously, a program, a book, an email, a pudding in the oven, a conversation with Loo etc and whilst all these things are good individually, when done together they become lesser in their impact.  Research shows us that as a society our concentration levels are in sharp decline.  With multiple distractions on offer it is a battle of will to keep focussed on one thing at any given moment.  Ministry, teaching, inspiration and fellowship demands ourselves to be fully present.  We cannot receive all that God wants to say to us with our mind in ten other places.  When you tune in, tune in completely and be fully present.  Bring your Bible, notepad and pen to the party.  

  • Church Online is the FA CUP final not another new series on Netflix.

What I mean by this is that whilst the FA CUP final can technically be watched the day after it has been played, the power, emotion and connection happens in the moment when everybody witnesses it together.  Why?  Because whilst Netflix is about individual consumption, the FA CUP final is about community experience.  Church is the same, whilst you can watch it days and weeks after the event, it is far more exciting to participate in real time.  We are working hard to bring you as much LIVE content as possible so that you continue to feel connected to us and one another.  I would strongly encourage you to where possible stream into our broadcasts in real time where you are able to interact with others particularly Sunday LIVE @11AM and Online OneGroup @7.30PM on a Wednesday.  We have also created a new website specifically for this purpose so that you can engage with other people even if you don’t have a social media account.  Please watch video.  

  • Our church format may have temporarily changed but the mission is still the same.

At Sunnyhill, we are here ‘for the One.’  In other words, primarily we’re all about Jesus and because we’re all about Him we are by virtue about all those who don’t know Him yet.  We believe that’s why we exist!  To that end, we want to see an invitational culture work out at Sunnyhill.   We want Sunnyhill to be a place where you can invite your friends and family with full confidence that they will be welcomed, loved and that they will leave having had a positive experience with us that moves them closer to Jesus.  This does not change even though we are now online.  If anything, this becomes even more possible.  It is easier than ever now for you to invite your friends and family to Sunnyhill.  They simply just need to jump on their smart device, whether that be their tv, laptop or phone and go to our website or to our Facebook page.  In the next 24 hours we will be releasing an advert for our online Sunday gathering on our social media platforms that we would love you to share as far as you can share it.  Let’s get the word out that whilst they might be stuck in doors there is something great that they can tune into.  

  • Come to play, not to watch.

The challenge of online gatherings is the temptation to simply be a spectator rather than a participator.  In life, it is always easier to be a consumer rather than a contributor, this is even more so the case when there is low accountability, i.e you sit behind a screen in a closed room in a closed house.  This is not who we are.  We must  work hard to keep our culture alive during this season.  In other words, participate in the chat rooms, sing and dance during the worship, say amen when you hear a truth that stirs your spirit, give generously to the offering and all the other things you can do to make it feel like the expression of church we will eventually return to.  Trust me – following this advice will serve you well in life, and it will be a game changer for this season of online church. 

  • Relational connection over internet connection.

There are all sorts of connection challenges during this time of home isolation.  Many online streaming services are downgrading the quality of their output to help with the current increased demand placed on them.  More and more people are online for hours at a time trying to readjust their life.  This can’t be helped given the present climate, however, let us not lose our connection to one another.  Use your phone and call one another.  I love how the Message Bible say Hebrews 10:25 – ‘Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.’  What a timely translation.  This hour demands of us to be inventive with how we encourage one another.  

  • We’re still Sunnyhill even though our buildings are temporarily shut. 

Finally, just because we’re not currently meeting at our Campus’ in the same way that we were previously, we are still Sunnyhill.  What do I mean by that?  We live by our values even when the buildings are not open.  We continue to live generously, celebrate innovation, champion growth, pursue excellence and build for the next generation.  Let’s look for ways to be Sunnyhill during this season.  A neighbour in need, a problem at work that needs solving, an attitude at home that needs challenging, kids that need discipling, a habit that needs forming…. the opportunities are present, step up to it.  

With all of the unexpected guidelines becoming increasingly stringent on a daily basis, in the space of one week we had to take everything we do at Sunnyhill online.  To put it bluntly, we were not well prepared for this eventuality, however, we are an innovative church so we have been working really hard behind the scenes to strategise, develop and deliver new forms of ministry that keep you growing in your walk with God, keep you connected to the church and it’s vision and keep you missionally sharp in this season with all of the new outreach opportunities.  We will eventually return to business as ‘usual.’  However, what if we don’t?  What if in this season, some shifts and developments happen in us that make it impossible to just do stuff the same as before?  I’m believing that God wants to teach us new stuff in this season and we don’t want to miss it.  I believe God wants to add to us during this season and we don’t want to miss it.  By faith, I believe this is all part of our journey and that it will serve to multiply us.  

This One Goes Out To All Those Who Are Scared – by Dom Bird

This one goes out to all those who are scared

FEAR!  A small word with huge implications.  I was wondering the other day if fear is ever a good thing for a believer.  I decided there is only one fear in the Bible that is acceptable and in deed necessary in life and that is the fear of the Lord.  It’s a bizarre notion to us in western Christianity because we only talk about the God who should be loved rather than the God who should be feared.  Yet there are some benefits to fearing God.  Check out this Psalm (128:1-4)

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,

    who walk in obedience to him.

You will eat the fruit of your labor;

    blessings and prosperity will be yours.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine

    within your house;

your children will be like olive shoots

    around your table.

Yes, this will be the blessing

    for the man who fears the Lord.

Who wants a happy life?  Who wants a fruitful life?  Who wants a prosperous life?  Who wants a dynamic marriage?  Who wants productive kids?  Who wants to be blessed?  If you answer these questions like me with a resounding ‘YES PLEASE’ then the instruction is clear, they flow from an appropriate fear of the Lord. WHAT?!?  How on earth can that be possible?  Well we have to understand what fear means from the Bible’s point of view.  Whilst it does in a sense mean to be afraid it is more to do with revering or to hold in high honour.  Which I guess relates to fear as we understand it.  What we fear, we ultimately revere and hold in high honour. Whilst this may seem harsh or even controversial, I believe it to be true – what you fear, you ultimately worship.  Jesus says it more brutal than I, “Don’t fear ( or revere) those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear (or revere) only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matthew 10:28.   Our sensitive ears can hardly receive the profound truth that exists in this verse and ones like it, yet it’s true all the same and we know that whilst truth has the power to offend, it also has the power to free (John 8:32).  In other words, don’t waste your time fearing people, instead fear the One who is far more powerful.  Don’t waste your time fearing sickness that can affect your physical body, instead fear God who has power both over your body and soul.   This is why Solomon tells us, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…’ (Proverbs 9:10)  What does this mean?  Well, I believe that when you truly fear (or honour) the Lord you begin to lose your fear (or honour) for everything else.  That’s where real life is found and where real life is lived.  

Recently, one of my children has been crippled by an irrational fear.  Now of course, fear never feels irrational to the one who fears, yet as a father, it has been exhausting none the less.  I have sought to reason with him and explain that he need not waste his time with such concern.  However, it seems to me that the worry that he carries for his fear is greater than his trust of what I am saying.  (We have recently turned a corner in this by printing off bible verses and sticking them to the wall by his bed for him to read and memorise.  This has helped him massively.  The principle = the truth of the Word conquers the fear of the world.)  I do wonder however, how often we are like this before God.  If fearing God is the beginning of wisdom all other fear must be irrational to God.  Our fears speak to our trust (or lack of) in God.  In fact John tells us the one who fears has not been made perfect in love as perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).

I think this is an extremely topical matter for the days in which we live.  Fear is a hidden and silent thief of peace and joy that works in the shadows.  Huge news corporations make their billions by trading off of fear.  Quite simply, fear sells!  The more they can get you feeding on their every word the more money they make.  Here’s a cheesy encouragement – trade your daily telegraph for your daily Word.  Peace and prosperity isn’t found in the pages of newspapers written by uninspired authors motivated by finances, it is found in the pages of the Bible written by authors inspired by the Holy Spirit motivated by faith.  

This is not to say we are not living in scary times with the apparent reality of climate change, the spread of the coronavirus, the increase of poverty and famine, the unpredictable outcomes in politics etc but even in the midst of all of these things fear is a choice.  I love the Psalms because within them we find encouragement that has the power to minister to our very soul. The Psalms are a collection of songs and poetry and I imagine David, the writer of Psalm 23 would preface his song in this way – ‘This one goes out to all those who are scared….’  Check our the Psalm for yourself but ultimately I would suggest it is the anthem we should be singing in this hour.  In this Psalm we read these lyrics – ‘

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…’

‭I love how David doesn’t deny the reality of walking through difficulty and darkness but instead acknowledges it but at the same times says he will not fear.  Almost like he’s suggesting he is choosing to not fear.  Recently, I have found myself saying to my son over and over that faith is not proven in the absence of scary things, it is finding courage in the presence of them.  Where do we find courage?  Knowing that God is with us and He is for us!  One of the verses we have printed and placed on the wall by my son’s bed says this – ‘The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.’ Proverbs 28:1.   

We don’t run away like the world.  We don’t panic or worry like people who don’t know God.  We don’t fear the darkest valley.  We’re not even scared of death.  Why?  Because we have nothing to fear but God.  

There is a threat even greater than the Coronavirus and that is the fear that might occupy your mind and stop you from truly living.  All that said, I’m obviously not advocating recklessness. Our life is a gift from God and so we should take care of ourselves and each other by being wise and mindful of the hygiene guidelines that the government are encouraging. Even as a church we are taking necessary precautions to keep you and your loved ones safe as per other emails you have received from us. However, caution is not the same as fear. Caution keeps you from harm, fear keeps you from living.

So as a church we are open for business as usual and if for whatever reason public spaces become temporarily unavailable, as an INNOVATIVE church we will find other creative ways to do church together.  In the meantime, alongside the leadership, we have a team of intercessors praying for protection over the church particularly those who are most vulnerable. WE WILL NOT FEAR THE CORONAVIRUS, WE WILL NOT REVERE IT OR HONOUR IT.  We will only fear the Lord.

I believe the series’ we are now in at our Poole and Ferndown campus are extremely topical: Waymaker (Poole Campus) and Resilience (Ferndown Campus).  Get inviting your loved ones so that they can can come and hear words of life.

This One Goes Out To All Those Who Are Scared – by Dom Bird